Welsh MP calls for certainty about when homes off gas grid will get £200 payment as temperatures plunge
A Welsh MP has called on the UK Government to announce when homes off the gas grid will get a one-off £200 payment to help with heating as the temperatures in Wales plunged overnight.
Temperatures dropped to -12°C making it the coldest night in Wales for more than a decade.
But there has been no certainty yet from the UK Government when those in rural areas would get fuel support payments, Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said.
He said that that “continued delays” by Ministers means that “thousands of my constituents will be left without support this Christmas”.
The one-off £200 payment is for homes that use heating oil, have an LPG boiler, biomass boiler or use a similar alternative fuel to heat their home.
The payment was initially planned as £100, but it was announced in the Autumn Statement it would be increased to £200. The UK Government has repeatedly refused to commit to a date for this payment when asked by Plaid Cymru.
In answers to Written Parliamentary Questions by Mr Lake, the Minister of State (Minister for Climate) in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Graham Stuart MP, said that “the Government expects this payment will be made in the new year”.
But Ben Lake said: “Continued delays by Ministers in Westminster mean that thousands of my constituents will be left without support this Christmas.
“To add insult to injury, the UK Government won’t even give us a date when payments will be made. Vague statements about ‘the new year’ are simply not good enough.
“In setting the rate for the Alternative Fuel Payments the Treasury do not appear to have factored in the unique issue faced by off-grid households. Many have to bulk buy months’ worth of fuel in one go, which places them under additional financial pressure.
“The stress of not knowing when the AFP will be delivered has exacerbated this issue over the past few months, with households unsure about whether to wait for support before buying their fuel.
“Whilst the Chancellor claims that the AFP has been doubled, the first payment was introduced to coincide with the first six months of the Energy Price Guarantee, which was announced back in September.
“Given that the scheme for households who are connected to the grid will be extended, albeit at a reduced rate, from April, off-grid homes should be given a guarantee now that they will receive a second round of the Alternative Fuel Payment next winter.”
UK Government analysis estimated that 74% of properties in Ben Lake’s constituency of Ceredigion were not on the gas grid in 2020. Powys stands at 55%, Ynys Mon at 53%, and Gwynedd at 49%. Overall it is estimated that 19% of households in Wales are not connected to the gas grid.
Mr Lake said that the £200 payment is “clearly not equivalent” to the Energy Price Guarantee, which the UK Government projects will save the average household £900.
Plaid Cymru have proposed a scheme for households to purchase 1,000 litres of heating oil or equivalent volume of LPG which would reflect an “equivalent level of support” to that provided for households connected to the mains gas grid.
At current prices, a voucher worth 1,000 litres of heating oil (the predominant source of heating for off gas-grid homes in Wales) would cost £969.82.
“74% of my constituents are not connected to the mains gas grid. They were promised an equivalent level of support as the Energy Price Guarantee provided to those on the gas grid,” Ben Lake said.
“£200 is clearly not equivalent to the Energy Price Guarantee, which the Government is projecting will save the typical household in Great Britain around £900, compared to undiscounted energy prices under the price cap.
“Plaid Cymru are therefore calling on the Government to deliver a voucher worth 1,000 litres of heating oil, which is the predominant source of heating for off gas-grid homes in Wales, which is worth £969.82 under current prices. That is urgently needed so families can have a warm home this Christmas.”
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